Aile ve Sosyal Politikalar Bakanlığı tarafından düzenlenen Yoksullukla Mücadele Günü Konferansı


Poverty Day Conference  
by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies

Opening Remarks
Kamal Malhotra
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Turkey
Resident Representative, UNDP Turkey

Rixos Hotel, Ankara, Turkey


Honorable Minister Dr. Ayşenur İslam, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, Distinguished Participants,


Ø  Let me start by saying that I am honored to be invited here, to this event on a very important day, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and to speak on a topic, which stands at the center of the international development agenda.


Ø  I have been asked to present an overview on poverty reduction.

Ø  First of all, let me briefly introduce the organization that I represent. For those who do not know, UNDP is the global development network of the United Nations, linking countries to knowledge and experience to address development challenges. We are on the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, working in a number of areas including inclusive and sustainable growth, inclusive and democratic governance and building the resilience of communities against risks.


Ø  During the early 1990’s, as a result of UNDP pioneering the human development and global human development reports, the definition of poverty shifted from income poverty to a broader definition of human poverty capturing non-economic dimensions. This definition later also became more closely related to a human rights based approach to development and the concept of human capabilities. With this shift in definition, the interventions suggested to prevent or reduce poverty have also been transformed.

Ø  The human poverty and capabilities approach, which has been the emerging development paradigm from the end of the 20th century, has allowed us to focus not only on incomes that an individual, household or economy generates, but on people by putting their empowerment and ability to lead healthy and decent lives, at the centre of the development process. This approach also emphasizes the choices one has. A regular income does not necessarily ensure that the citizens are freed from poverty. That is clearly evident in the ‘working poor’ phenomenon which we have increasingly observed in the last few decades. Even though people may be employed, they might lack the necessary resources to live a decent life such as access to public services, education and a secure income level. This is also related to the risks and vulnerabilities that people are exposed to.

Ø  The international community is increasingly defining poverty through non-monetary welfare related measurements. It is no longer sufficient to look at people’s incomes as determinants of their well-being. A broader approach is needed, one that integrates overall wellbeing of individuals in terms of health, education level, participation in society and happiness.

Ø  This issue is also one of the points mentioned in the UN Secretary General’s Message issued on the occasion today of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Linking his message today to the preparation of post-2015 sustainable development agenda and the threat of climate change, the UN Secretary General emphasizes that we must not lose sight of our most fundamental obligation: to eliminate poverty in all its forms.

Ø  Another important aspect that is critical for sustainable development and growth is related to resilience of our institutions, systems and communities. Recent and repeated financial, natural and political crises have vividly illustrated that even if a person is not poor today, it does not guarantee that s/he will not be exposed to poverty or vulnerability in the future. We are all vulnerable to certain shocks to a varying extent. People run the risk of falling into poverty if they do not have access to economic and social assets, if they are socially excluded within a society, or if they are located in a remote or disadvantaged area far away from service provision. Individuals are also prone to temporary shocks when they have to face unexpected situations such as illness and health-related expenses, high-interest bearing private loans, crop disease, drought and irrigation failure or other natural or man-made disasters. People tend to respond to these temporary shocks by selling assets, or reducing basic expenditures, which have negative implications for both their families and for them in the long run.

Ø  Therefore, we must consider such vulnerabilities while designing our strategies and we must start thinking about creating not only welfare or rich societies, but ‘resilient’ communities which have the capacity to cope. This concept of resilience is closely related to human development and the human capabilities approach as applied to both individuals and societies more broadly.


Ø  UNDP promotes the human development concept partly through annual global Human Development Reports, through which the status of countries are also monitored through human development and related indices. Such reports have been published since 1990, and provide information on how countries are performing with regard to some selected indicators, such as life expectancy, education, gender equality, per capita income and inequality. UNDP has also supported over 600 regional and national human development reports in over 100 countries and we are just embarking on a new national one on Inclusive Growth in Turkey.

Ø  Using multi-dimensional indicators is especially important to capture development challenges accurately. For example, take the case of Turkey. Even though it is an upper middle-income country, Turkey ranked 69th according to the human development index in the 2014 Human Development Report, below many OECD countries and other countries in the high-human development category such as Bulgaria and Romania. The reason why Turkey lags behind these countries is not related to income; Turkey’s gross national income is much higher than these countries. However, it is not income poverty alone that matters, but higher levels of educational attainment, life expectancy rate, inequality and gender equality concerns that put Turkey behind these countries.


Ø  Relative poverty is, in many societies, even more important than absolute poverty. This is certainly true of Turkey. “Humanity Divided”, a recent and critically acclaimed publication of UNDP, underlines that “great and persistent inequality in the midst of plenty is a paradox of our times”. Over the last few decades, poverty rates have declined in every region of the world; emerging market countries have grown with unprecedented speed; and life-changing technologies have improved well-being. Even so, many people, and in some cases entire countries, continue to be shut out of the gains.  This shows that growth processes need to be inclusive, with specific measures to ensure an equitable contribution to and benefit for all segments of society from the growth achieved. This is a continuous challenge faced by middle income countries such as Turkey.

Ø  Inclusive growth is what UNDP has focused on in the last couple of years. Indeed, growth is critical for development but unless its positive impact reaches all citizens in an equitable manner, this will negatively reflect in a country’s human development. When we see that women are excluded from the labour market or are taking up informal jobs with no social security, this casts a shadow on the remarkable growth pattern that we see. Similarly, the world is now discussing ways to transform industrial patterns to ensure green growth and green jobs that not only provide incomes for the people, but also contribute to the sustainability or at least reduce the negative impacts on nature.

Ø  Inclusive societies must make their plans, implement their policies and prepare their budgets by considering various segments of society. Some segments of society are disadvantaged compared to others in many areas such as levels of education, access to resources, access to networks and cultural barriers. A welfare state must take measures to reduce such disadvantages and implement equalizing policies. There can be positive discrimination in some instances and special schemes developed in others. If a certain group in society is constrained from benefiting from public resources – for instance the disabled, uneducated youth, certain geographical locations, etc.- only policies which are inclusive will be able to ensure equality and reduced human poverty, if they are designed and implemented appropriately.

Ø  The Secretary General, in his statement for today, draws attention to the fact that despite the significant progress achieved in halving the proportion of people living in poverty, one in every five persons in developing regions-amounting to 1.22 billion people- still lives on less than $1.25 a day and 2.4 billion people live on less than $2 a day. When these figures are considered in addition to other vulnerabilities that exist for many more people, it is clear that there is still a need for both the design and implementation of effective policies for poverty and vulnerability reduction.

Ø  Let me conclude by once again thanking the Ministry of Family and Social Policies for providing me with the opportunity to address you here today. I am confident that you will find today’s discussion very valuable and enrich it with your contributions.

Thank you.

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